Syrian War Podcasts
Andy’s Podcaster Podcasting Podcast
It’s Andy’s Podcaster Podcasting Podcast… Episode 11
Sauages frying. Music heard through headphones. Andy singing.
JEN ENTERS THE KITCHEN.
Ugh… Who are you listening to?
No, Who’s the band?
What you just said!
… You want me to Guess Who?
No. Not Guess Who. That’s a different group… from Canada…
Just tell me the name of the band…
The people playing and singing the singing the song!
Who are you fucking listening too?
Stop it. Take your headphones off…. Thank-you. Now one last time before I shove those sausages where the sun don’t shine…
Where’s that - Grimsby?
Who are you listening to?
Oh, I thought you didn’t like them?
Yeah, I don’t really. I mean, you’ve got to respect Keith Moon’s drumming. But then there’s Pete Townshend who I just don’t like, you know, the whole recruitment campaign he did for the US Air-force… but I think mainly when I first heard them I just had my musical plate full with Floyd and Tull and Zep. - But this song - Won’t Get Fooled Again has sort of been on my mind lately… with my thinking and the podcasts I’m reviewing.
Aren’t you doing Tom Waits Podcasts this week?
No, I’m doing those next week. This week I’m focusing on Syria.
Oh. Heavy. How’s it going?
Errr, It’s a nightmare, and so so sad, and it’s so complex, I was hoping I’d find one or two Pods that would try and focus on it comprehensively, a full historic reckoning from how Assad’s dad weaponized Suicide bombers and chased Regan and the U.S. military out of The Lebanon with the 1983 Beirut Barracks bombing, to now how they are barrel bombing their own cities to maintain their slender grip on power with the help of Russia and Iran. BUT - instead I’ve found half a dozen shows who have just managed to cover various aspects of it in a piecemeal fashion…
So - why The Who?
Bit of light relief and, like I say, - the song - ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ - has kind of come to mind a lot, because you can’t help but feel sad and ask why - as - you see our - humanities - collective failure to help the Syrian people. Because - So much moral capital has been Squandered and Pissed Away by the Bush regimes and their invasion of Iraq based on proven lies on top of all the other invasions and dis-credited operations from the CIA - it’s then become impossible for us to set a red line - like the use of chemical weapons - and then actually follow through. It’s like a fucked up version of boy who cried Wolf, our narrative as the good guys won’t fly anymore, so there’s a colossal lack of will for American led action in the middle-East quagmire of our own creation, our tainted reputation lets the wolves run riot… Although I just see today how we’ve sent troops to defend Oil Fields in Saudi Arabia so, I guess, following Occam’s Razor- it probably is just a case of us not giving a shit about people, we just care about the oil we need to steal or buy at ridiculously low and planet fatal prices… Hey, if only refugees were barrels of oil and not people, Trump would probably fly his dead buddy Jeffery Epstein’s private jet from Mar-a-Largo to the Mediterranean to pick them up personally…
Wow… Sounds like a fun show!
Yeah, it’s going to be a total hoot!
Hey Welcome to the show! That Pete Townshend Public Service announcement was pretty crazy eh, the original mod-father… doing a recruitment drive for the US Air force in 1967 - pretty much slap bang in the middle of the Vietnam War! Why Pete? Why? I should probably check to see he’s done anymore stuff like that over the years… Anyway - it’s good to be back. Had a pretty epic summer, camping and traveling with the kids, Adirondacks, New Hampshire, Yellowstone, Glacier, Alberta… here’s what the kids liked…
Cut to Andy asking Sierra and Blaise what they liked about the summer vacation trips.
We saw a Bear!
We saw a Bear!
Cut to Andy back in studio
yup a brief five minute encounter with a Black Bear topped everything… SO - on with the show. This week I’m reviewing Podcasts about The Syrian War Situation… it hasbeen a lot of hard listening, I can tell you. I can think of nothing more important and maddeningly overlooked than this incredible and horrific climax of the Arab Spring rebellions… WHAT A FUCKING NIGHTMARE. Probably the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war, if you count the internally displaced and the missing millions of Iraqi refugees who were in Syria escaping ISIS and the Iraq war debackle. And the displaced Palestinians who are never accurately counted because they are kept in an unprocessed and unsettled limbo to be used as a human meat shiv by Arab states against Israel whenever possible… I’m so fucking sad about the situation, it’s so complex and so horrific. But the saddest thing boils down to a people being caught between at least a dozen armies committing war crimes and genocide and actual Total War, with Russian propaganda flexing it’s muscles, to confuse and obfuscate at every turn, Oh AND chemical weapons… and at one point The Pentagon and the CIA were backing opposing armies - to the tune of 30-40 Billion dollars. SO many lost weapons. Another stunning CIA blunder - they trained at least three armies and pushed them into Syria and they just either straight up joined Al Quieda or ISIS or just sold the weapons to them. Insane. To lose one billion dollar arsenal of weapons to a blood thirsty terrorist organizations following an operating manual called ‘the Management of Savagery’ is a misfortune to lose a dozen… Fucking Clowns. And Assad was so close to being toppled in the first year after the Arab Spring hit, that he had to pulled out his chemical weapons to keep his head from the spike and it turns out, chemical weapons have become quite a habit for him to break. Then you’ve got epic Oil Field battles that in six years read like a history of crusades. Then the biggest US marine battle in modern times, at Raqqa, to take back the Capital of the ISIS Caliphate. And Turkey - AH Turkey playing all sides, letting ISIS and Al Quida come and go at will across its border in the hope they’d sooner or later take care of their Kurdish problem. Then you’ve got the YPG - and all that weirdness with those American Marxist Kids going to fight for them. Then there’s the disappeared in Assad’s Torture Camps. Total Death count from The Arab Spring in Libya - estimated at about 50,000 - Estimates of just the disappeared in Assad torture camps - topping 100,000. Then you’ve got The Siege of modern cities, never seen to this degree, in which Imams have had to issue decrees to their starving congregations that they could go ahead and ignore the Koran and skin and eat cats to survive… Where to begin, how do you adequately cover this mass insanity and barbarity…
It’s like the famous quote attributed to Stalin - ‘One Death is a tragedy but a million is a statistic’, it’s a failure in our imagination, in our ability to act, to draw red lines and fucking mean it. NATO, made impotent on the sidelines, making all the right noises but incapable and ridiculed by the so called ‘super powers’. Trump responding to chemical weapons by blowing up an airbase after he’s already told the Russians and Assad he’s going to do it, one tragic sham after another and on it goes, spinning out of control… As old William Butler wrote - Yates wrote, ’Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood dimmed tide, in which the ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity…’
SFX - Radio Scroll - Shoobie Taylor - Trump Rally - ‘Send Her Back’ - Daniel Tiger - McDs.
Music - Rise of the Black Centipede by Mario Rom’s Interzone.
It’s… Review… Time…
First up - The Syrian Civil War Podcast -
This is the sort of Podcast I was hoping to find about the Syrian War. It was inspired by a sub-reddit about the ongoing conflicts around Aleppo and -It begins in July 2016 and has a drum beat feeling of reporting on the events as they are happening, like the fall of Aleppo, the battles of Hama and Palmyra and the use of chemical weapons and it circles around some important topics - like Turkey’s role in the conflict and there is an episode on the book - The Management of Savagery - the Al Queeda / ISIS political manual examining it’s long term implications in the war and into the future. The episodes do a good job with bringing the names of actual people on the ground, working and fighting and he has good support from a variety of guests. So it begins in July 2016 but then only goes up to November 2017 and the full show contains just fourteen episodes. It was put together by Christian Gentry - a student at the Appalachian State University studying International Political Science and History. I’ve got an e-mail out to find out why it stopped but I’m guessing he had to stop to take his exams and then ran out of funding for the show and had to take a job doing what other people want him to do so he can pay his wifi phone plan and fill his car with gas. It’s a shame but we do have these fourteen episodes in the pod bank so we’ll take it. They are a good grounding in that year of the war and the gas attacks with some decent attempts at filling in some of the historical information needed to grasp the wider conflict. It gets - five stars - 2 thumbs up - and a Reddit chorus.
Next Up is - the Forced Migration Review
What is a Podcast - well, for me it’s anything that is delivered on the RSS Podcast Stream, it’s spoken word in all it’s wonderful forms from highly produced radio drama to weirdos sharing their obsessions whispered into microphones in un-soundproofed garden sheds and everything between and beyond so - even this which is an audio version of a print publication from the Oxford University - the Forced Migration review, episode #47 from Sept 2014. It’s a passive - clearly enunciated reading of the issue, I’m guessing not full article by article, but the key points from each article, and it outlines the staggering size and horror of the refugee problem that was taking place in Syria in 2014. Which when you compare to the goals outlined in the Jihaddist book - The Management of Savagery - which I just learned about in the last podcast - also looks like a deliberate weaponized aspect of war to destabilize Europe and put the UN on the back foot, expending time and energy and money trying to handle this vast influx of people… So it came out about two years and a bit into the war. So, yes, this is an old snapshot of the problem that has only gotten about 100 x worse because it grew from being a historic refugee crisis into a genocidal one. Listen to these articles, they are well written and brief, written people and groups groups working on the ground and at the highest levels of various countries and the UN. The gravity of the information delivered, with what we now know has happened is nothing less than shocking, a hideous inditement on the state of humanity. A sort of report card from 2014… the numbers of refugees countered, the internally displaced - counted… people who are not there anymore. It’s the kind of thing you hope will be part of some War Crimes trial for Assad and his backers in some glorious human future where law and order is re-established for world affairs and the Declaration of Human Rights is not considered a laughable document of liberal optimism but a working legal document with actual power. To get a full sense of the refugee crisis as it was in it’s early days - check out this podcast… Five Stars, 2 thumbs up, and a funeral march.
Next up is The Brief History Podcast from a guy called Andrew Knight
This is a history podcast that attempts to summarize in under an hour large historical events. Great idea. There are episodes on Syria and it’s a decent effort but it comes over little bit like a listing of key battles from a clever guy in the corner of the pub rather than a considered analysis of the overall situation. There are other episodes on more Historical wars - like The Korean War and the Zulu wars and these benefit from being more settled and understood historical situations. The host is reading from a script and he’s uncomfortable with Arabic so his pronunciation of Arabic is going to annoy the shit out of you if you fire this one up. He gets 5 stars, 2 thumbs up and a confused dog.
Cut to - SFX Pete - Catholic Church PSA
OH NO PETE - NOT AGAIN! WHY? WHY DO YOU IT? WHY!? In the midst of a forty year child sex abuse scandal that shows no sign of ever ending, Rochester NY was a new one - just last week - and then there was the report in June that the church has spent over 10 million on political lobbyists trying to push laws that would reduce the statute of limitations so they won’t have to defend themselves in court. Yup, I guess that’s what Jesus would do. SICK… how the Catholic Church is allowed to continue to operate is beyond , it’s almost like they’ve been allowed brainwash generations at birth… BUT PETE WHY? WHY?
Anyway - he better not have anymore of those…
Next up is - BEHIND THE LINES - from journalist Shane Bauer, it’s a special 3 part podcast put out as part of the Mother Jones Podcast which is something they are attempting to build, using all the reporters they employ. Shane Bauer is a brilliant journalist, if you haven’t come across his work before you should find it on-line and read it. I’ll link from the show notes. In the past he’s gone undercover and worked in a for profit prison, he’s pretended to be a White Supremacist and reported from inside Militia Groups patrolling the Southern Border. He was one the three hikers arrested by Iran in 2009 and then released in 2011 as part of the softening of Iranian sanctions around the Iran deal and after they paid a half a million dollar ransom via the Sultan of Oman. So - huge credit for going back into the region Mr Bauer! If I’d done 2 years of an eight year sentence in an Iranian jail for hiking I would not be getting on a plane flying in the general direction of Iran, let alone sneaking into a war torn country in which your former captors are a major player. So he wrote this big three part series for the Mother Jones publication and they’ve not turned some of that into a three part podcast. It’s a good effort but it’s clear it’s an adaptation of a written article, done probably under time pressure to tie into the written and online publication release. It is good, but it’s not as good as the full written article. They’ve broken the article up into three different features - Part one is Burrying Syria’s Forgotten Dead - where he follows around forensics teams in Raqqa, the bombed out former capital of the short lived ISIS caliphate, AKA as Raqqa the former Syrian city that reveled against Assad under the Syrian Arab Spring. The second part is a recording of a tour he took around the Black Stadium - a notorious ISIS Prison in bombed out Raqqa. And the Third part focuses on Samantha Elhassani the American woman and notorious ISIS wife who is currently on trial in Indiana for the material support of Terrorism - basically for marrying and supporting an ISIS fighter and joining the Caliphate and taking her son with her and allowing him to be used as ‘American ISIS Kid’ training to use weapons in various ISIS propaganda vids on YOUTUBE. The three episodes are a good and worthy and harrowing listen, if you want to focus on the Raqqa battle - the biggest deployment of American Marines in modern times and get a sense of the horror of living in Raqqa under ISIS - this is for you. Like I say the articles are better, deeper and more in line with what you expect from Shane Bauer’s work - and since I’m a fan of his writing I had hoped for a more comprehensive look at Syria but I know now that that was naive of me, it is such a vast and complex and horrific shitshow that it’s hard to wrap your head around, let alone gather the necessary personal interviews and audio for such an undertaking while sneaking illegally into a country where even your own military don’t want you since your track record shows you’ll probably have a few awkward questions about the mission and the use of White Phosphorus for example. So the podcast gets 3 stars - it loses half a star for the Mother Jones studio host who opens the series - in the first episode she is just way too fucking happy and chipper to be introducing a horrific audio tour of a mass grave exhumation episode. It’s a tonal faux pas - and I think they pick up on it and she adjusts well and has adapted by episode three but it jarring to begin with in the first episode. Maybe a straight audio reading of the full article would probably have worked better. So what else - two thumbs up, police siren duck, the clanking of prison door and lightsabers because Shane must be a Jedi for agreeing to back near Iran and into a ISIS prison guided by torture victims.
Next up us Ethnically Ambiguous
This is a podcast from Anna Hossnieh an Iranian- American producer and her co-host Shereen Lani Younes a Syrian American Film-maker and artist. The show’s mission is to let people know what it’s like to be a modern Middle Easterner living in America today. It’s great listen, hearing them discuss politics and society and they do their best to try and keep it funny and entertaining and factual. And they succeed - a lot of the time. They did one episode on Syria directly and it’s heartbreaking hearing Sherreen break down as they struggle to comprehend the complexity and fucking horror of the conflict. We live in a culture that successfully marginalizes and criminalizes and silences brown people in all kinds of subtle and no so - subtle ways so I’m so glad to have found this show and I’m hooked and I think if you give it a chance you will be too. Speaking as a White male, actively trying to find a way out of the snare of my own prejudices in a society that is set up to reinforce and strengthen these prejudices it is great to be able to just shut the fuck up and listen to these women and let me witness and learn from their experiences. Five Stars - two thumbs up, a Hafiz quote… and the Toy Story theme in Arabic.
Next up, How to begin… I’ve had to bask in the clipped insanity of the military mind with The Modern War Institute at West Point - they produce two podcasts - the straight sauce - just called the MWI podcast and another one called The Spear - which is conversations with combat veterans talking about their experiences on the ‘front line’. THE SPEAR - IF YOU JOIN THE ARMY YOU BECOME THE TIP OF THE SPEAR - WHICH is an honor - to be rendered into a tool and like a tool we will use you and then put you away in a shed / park bench in one of our metro areas and forget about you ONCE WE ARE DONE. OF COURSE if you are a SPEAR and YOU are picked up and used by NAZIS then that is OK because you are an UNTHINKING TOOL, WE WILL GIVE YOU A MILITARY DISCOUNT AT DISNEY WORLD. YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO QUESTION THE MISSION, IF THE MISSION IS TO SIT IN THE DESERT AND PROVIDE BE A PATRIOTIC COVER TO JUSTIFY HALLIBURTON AND OTHERS GRAFTING MONEY FROM THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER - SO BE IT. YOU ARE THE TIP OF THE SPEAR, A SPEAR DOES NOT THINK, YOU WILL BE REWARDED FOR NOT THINKING… IF YOUR COMMANDER IN CHIEF IS A DRAFT DODGER WHO INSULTS GOLD STAR FAMILIES AND WHOSE MAIN CONCERN IS APPEASING THE ENEMY AND ENRICHING HIMSELF - SO BE IT - YOU ARE JUST A SPEAR, BUILD A WALL, TEAR GAS REFUGEES, PROTECT SAUDI OIL-WELLS… IF YOU HAVE TO CAPTURE AND RECAPTURE MOSUL OVER AND OVER AND FIND YOURSELF FIGHTING AGAINST WEAPONS LOST BY THE CIA, DO NOT QUESTION THE MISSION. EVERYONE MUST RESPECT THE MILITARY AT ALL TIMES…AND YOU ARE A SPEAR…. SO, the main show has guests from across the military hawk Diaspora discussing tactics and operational theory with cool reptilian gloss. You’ve got Discussion on the Future of Cyber Conflict with the Commander of US Army Cyber Command, it’s very forward looking lots of tech episodes about the ‘future battlefield’ robot armies and drone wars. It’s very smug and self-confident, it just oozes that West Point military class privilege, and it gets off on Psuedo-intellectualizing the justification and practice of warfare as if they are geeks discussing Star Wars with about as much empathy and connection as Insurance Loss adjusters figuring out ways to screw the public. For example Episode 2 - A LOOK AT URBAN WARFARE IN THE SYRIAN CITY OF ALEPPO with guest star Dr Roger Shananhan - features tidbits like - ‘Everyone was very surprised that the Russians and Iranians went all in to the level they did, backing Assad… before they did, The rebels were winning against the Syrian army with AMATEUR HOUR movements and deployments in civilian SUVs.’ It’s incredible, there are war rooms - observing what’s happening - watching civilians trying to escape and being desperately covered by rearguard actions from freedom fighters in sedan cars, and the best they can say is, ‘that maneuver was amateur hour - I would have been able to take that convey out with a simple airstrike.’ Look… Ok - I think I found this podcast towards the end of my Syrian studies, and so I for sure have come to it with the ghosts of the Syrian dead on my shoulder. There is, maybe a lot to recommend this show - I’ve listened to 5 or 6 episodes and they do provide a lot of food for thought and they do seem to be forward thinking and trying to bring in a plurality of opinions. And it’s seductive, the mindset, the intellectualization of death, the in-built ignoring the basic macro-level fuck ups and undemocratic evil of most of the Military Industrial Complex of which they serve. Funded by a socialist tax on us all. Every now and again, they say RAND corporation in hallowed tones. And for some of the shows it’s like you’re listening to MAJOR MAJOR from Catch 22 and it’s slightly boring to the point it sounds totally reasonable, a siren song of chiseled ambition and respectability and you drift into a Norman Rockwell world of simplicity and then they’ll say something fucking straight out of DR Strangelove - Like ‘ I think we need to look at our Chemical Weapons treaties so ve can develop a super gas that will knock everyone out so we can go into cities and kill only the Jihaddis…’ or ‘The major problem is that we are not Russia and so we are hampered by a need to not kill civilian populations or at least kill as few as them as possible.’ And there’s a definite matter-of-fact wistfulness about this. Which I’m sure is a common thought in the army from the top to the bottom, let us fight lets go and do our job for which we are trained, let slip the dogs of war without moral restraint… Yeah, you can hear it if you listen closely, the huger for Total War is right their beating in the warrior chest, right below the medals for taking Mosel, retaking Mosel, Losing Mosul so we can re-take it again. The Show gets 5 stars because they are five star generals god damn it and I am an American and to do otherwise would be treason. And it gets a Clear Hearts and a Dr Strangelove.
SFX - Pete - Syrian Air force PSA
Not AGAIN - WHY PETE? WHY DO you have to do it… THERE ARE HOURS of barrel bomb footage on Youtube it’s horrific - talk about providing material support to the enemy… WHY… WHY PETE WHY!
OK - last review, maybe saved the best until last perhaps…
The Podcast show is called BEHIND THE BASTARDS - it’s the work and brainchild of Robert Evans, an investigative journalist and former editor of cracked.com who has reported from war zones in Iraq and Ukraine… and it’s pretty special - it specializes in deep dive historical biopics of the Bastards - from Pat Buchanan to Jeffrey Epstein, from King Leopold the third to Joesph Stalin, with great general episodes like - The birth of the KKK, complete Insane History of American Border Militias, How the Pay Day Loan industry is Bastards All the Way Down and how it takes a Village of Bastards to make a Weinstein! The profile of Bashir Al Assad is a two parter and is the best I’ve heard on this mass-murdering scumbag and his hideous Marie Antoinette of a wife. It’s not just a profile but a history of how the Assad’s came to power and how we get to wear we are now. His raging sadness about the events of the past 8 years in Syria comes ripping through even though in the show as a whole he does try to find the funny even though it mostly comes off as gallows humor, which is basically all we have left. He’s clearly a history buff and his reading and knowledge shines through, you know you find callbacks to people like Alios Brunner - the escaped Nazi war criminal, senior in the Gestapo who escape to Syria and was hidden by them and they used him to set up their MakHabarat surveillance, and torture program - which prior to the Arab Spring was spoken of fondly by the CIA as the best of the best torture programs out their - and yes the CIA has sub-contracted in Syria to use their torturers to circumvent international law. It’s just full of fascinating information - like the puff piece Vogue did on the Assad just prior to the Arab Spring trying to sell them to the West as a reforming, liberal, thoroughly modern couple and not the fucking monsters they are sat atop a pyramid of Nazi torture and Russian propaganda. So Behind the Bastards - add this to your - POD Queue - Five Stars - 2 thumbs up a Hellraiser and all the marbles.
Music - Rise of the Black Centipede by Mario Rom’s Interzone.
SFX - Andy’s phone - leave a Message
Cut to Hedge leaving a message for Andy from a busy restaurant.
Andy! Good to have you back. To answer your questions… no I don’t think I ever went to anything at the Syrian Embassy. When it was still open. Strange now I think about it, they claim they invented glass, chemistry, the alphabet… I bet they even had a claim on shoes. We probably missed a trick there, but the boss steers clear of a lot of the Middle East stuff since most of them don’t officially drink, so there’s rarely any alcohol. I do know a guy who worked for Brown Loyd James - big PR firm and propaganda merchants - really Evil - he helped pull together the Assad puff piece that appeared in Vogue right before the Arab Spring, you know the one, where they had Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie driving round Damascus with the Assads. As if they were a cool normal couple and not homicidal maniacs who ran a network of torture chambers and were months away from barrel bombing their own people. Sick. He made bank on it though. Think I saw pictures on a new boat he got out on the Eastern Shore. Yeah, he’s a bit of a dick now I think about it. Next boat pic he posts I’ll be sure to post a pic of some refugee kids washing up on Mediterranean beaches. That’s where the boat should be. Our generation’s Dunkirk and we didn’t fucking show up. (BIG SIGH) Man when you start following the money… Fuck, there is so much complicity. But that’s the evil business Brown Lloyd James is in. There was a Wikileaks release their e-mails to Assad, taking about ‘how to create the appearance of pursuing reform while repressing the uprising’. SHIT. Anyway… what was the other thing… Oh yeah my tattoo guy, look I don’t know how to say it but he’s kind of like a big deal. He’s huge. He’s an Instagram influencer, millions of followers. Don’t get mad… but he’s kind of out of your league… honestly, he’s out of my league too. I just got lucky when I bumped into him at Coachella and it just happened. So I don’t think there’s any point me giving you his number. And in any case he only does Star Wars themed stuff and mostly full back so he’s not going to do a little Tom Waites tattoo for you… But I’m here and I will happily go to the hip tattoo parlors around town with you until we find someone good… and …um in your budget. Does Jen know about this?
Cut to studio
Seriously dude, you’re not giving the number of your tattoo guy? I’m not cool enough, he’s out of my league. Right because the death star on your shoulder is the equivalent of the Mona Lisa. I’m just considering a small something - maybe Tom Waits - based… Give me the number man, it might not happen… I was thinking of having the tattoo - or the design at least as the episode art but - whatever… Anyway… That’s a wrap. Hope you enjoyed the show. Back next week to review all the Tom Waits fan podcasts. I’m a Tom Waits fan, I’m a fan of Tom Whats podcasts. Maybe I’ll get a tattoo.
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